#OpenEd13 Presentation – We Have Lost the Term “MOOC”

Video of my presentation MOOCseum:  Using the Open Movement to Invigorate Local Museums is posted below.  Attendees were engaged and responsive, and the numbers were impressive especially considering this was the final presentation slot at the conference.

Attendees were interested in the potential at the confluence point of MOOCs and Museums, and the Q&A session (unfortunately not all caught on camera; I went over my allotted time) captured some of those possibilities (opening up two-way communication at museums beyond a set MOOC date, incorporation into non-art entities, augmented technologies to spur communication and supplemental learning.  We discussed art and aesthetics, copyright, institutional inertia, facilitation vs. expertise, and many other ideas floating in the OER ether.

But the Twittersphere showed the most interest one statement, pulled from my theoretical work on MOOCs:


I have argued the futility of continuing to call the connectivist-style online courses by the term MOOC.  In popular culture MOOC means Udacity, Coursera or EdX, and Andrew Ng’s keynote on Wednesday showed the tone-deafness of the dominant paradigm.  At #OpenEd13 debate continued among the group of experts (and this conference was full of experts) regarding how we properly define a MOOC, akin to the debate at Educause where Mathieu Plourde argued that every term in the acronym is negotiable.  My argument at #OpenEd13 is that such thinking is counter-productive to the political and cultural conversation about distance, online and open education:  those of us in that world are still arguing about the definition, but in the mainstream the ship has sailed, and we need to accept that the term MOOC no longer means what it did in 2008.

This does not mean that what MOOC meant is lost; far from it.  George Siemens, Alec Couros, Alan Levine, Jim Groom and others did not initially brand their courses as MOOCs.  Much like my use of MOOCseum, the term in many ways is now used by those with connectivist sensibilities to pitch and market the course.  #OpenEd13 shows a lot of people building a lot of unique courses and putting them under the MOOC umbrella because it exists, it kind of fits, and it generates eyeballs.  (I must mention that Jim Groom argued this point in the Q&A, noting specifically in my use of MOOCseum that I gained population to the conference session not because I used the term MOOC but because I did what a good connectivist does:  I networked and made personal connections in order to secure interest and show people the promise of the session)

Is the term MOOC lost?  We will discuss further at Sloan’s International Conference on Online Learning, where I present on a history of the term from the perspectives of history, theory and pedagogy.